For those without grandchildren, this piece might be meaningless. And even those with ‘normal’, mild mannered grandkids might not be able to relate to the exploits of my youngest grandson, referred to by his grandfather as ‘Animal.’ This kid is three years old, but could pass for a 30-year-old troll with an attitude.
I spent Saturday at my daughter’s home, so I can confirm the fact that Animal has yet to be incarcerated. He remains at home under supervision while wearing a tracking device. He is definitely a danger to himself and to others. It’s been suggested that he be sedated, put in a straight jacket and tossed into a padded cell with pastel colors and soft music. But nobody listens to me.
When not plundering and pillaging villages or terrorizing the locals, Animal can sometimes be found at home playing violent computer games. His mother won’t let him play games that are in themselves violent, but it’s the way he plays the game. This distraction gives his mother a brief window of opportunity to seek first aid or take a quick shot of Jack Daniels. But these short respites end with the sound of something breaking as Animal grows tired of destroying images on a computer screen and turns to tangible items in his immediate vicinity, returning to his normal reign of terror.
This kid is like a miniature NFL lineman. Stocky with short legs, I’m convinced he could drive a blocking sled loaded with a 300 pound line coach and a dozen bags of concrete 100 yards while simultaneously arming an explosive device. This would be an opportune time for the line coach to get off the sled and run like hell.
Little Animal can look you in the eye with an adorable crooked smile and just when you feel a wave of love, he’ll hit your kneecap with a head butt that drops you like a rock, while laughing hysterically as you writhe in pain.
I remember when Animal learned his first words somewhere around the age of a year. While talking with my daughter by phone, I heard her ask the little guy if he wanted to talk to Grandpa. The kid took the phone. The next thing I heard was heavy breathing. In a grandfatherly way I said, ‘Do you know who this is?’ No answer. Nothing. Just heavy breathing. My daughter later said that he nodded. Kids always do that. You never want to ask a kid on the phone a yes or no question. They will shake their head, nod, or simply breathe into the phone.
My next question was, ‘Who is this? Who am I talking to?’ There was a brief silence. His reply sent chills down my spine. I’ll never forget it. A raspy voice stated ominously, ‘I Animal!’
Wow! To have formed my grandson’s self image so indelibly at such an early age made me proud. That’s what grandfathers are for…to pass wisdom to a new generation. To help the little creatures develop a sense of self and where they fit in the universe. Right?
But this little guy’s answer also had an impact on me. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat, hearing a raspy voice say, ‘I Animal!’ I get up and stagger to the kitchen, where I can turn on a light without waking my wife. I just want to be sure that there isn’t a 3-year-old linebacker lurking in the dark, plotting a head butt to my remaining good knee.
After painting this somewhat distorted picture of my youngest grandchild, I have to confess that he really doesn’t burn villages or decimate small countries. And he doesn't really wear a tracking device. He’s actually a cute little sucker with a sensitive side and it’s hard not to love him, but he tends to keep that part of his nature under wraps. He prefers being ‘Animal.’
Some day, years from now, when his intended victim is a rival NFL quarterback and he’s lined up over center as a tough nose tackle, I hope I’m still around to yell, ‘Kill ‘em, Animal!’ And when the game is over and they hand him the game ball on national TV, I want to see him raise that football in the air defiantly and in a raspy voice yell out, ‘I Animal!!’
What a legacy for a proud grandfather.